Vision Grants

Grantee partner Liberation Journeys hosting a student workshop

3 scaled

Up to $2,000




Feb 1, 2024


May 15, 2024

Vision Grants support nonprofit organizations in their pursuit of planning, evaluation, and DEI initiatives. Through research, workshops, and more, these vision-driven projects help steer organizations to make a positive impact. As a funder and partner, we provide the resources and support to help your organization grow more equitable while strengthening your programs and initiatives.

Award Timeline

The entire grant review process typically takes about 10 weeks from the deadline until groups are notified about funding. The timeline for activities seeking funding should not begin until 12 weeks after the initial LOI deadline. Groups should submit one grant application per cycle.

  1. LOI's are reviewed. Successful LOI applicants are invited to submit a full proposal. (Approximately two weeks)
  2. Applicants have two to three weeks to complete the full proposal
  3. Full proposals are reviewed. Successful applicants are notified. (Approximately three weeks)
  4. Applicants review and sign grant agreements. Grant funds are issued two to three weeks after the signed grant agreement is received.
  5. Within 30 days of the conclusion of a project or grant period, grantees must complete a final grant report.
Eligibility and Guidelines


  1. Must be a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization or have a fiscal sponsor
  2. Organizations or projects must be Illinois-based
  3. Priority given to organizations with an annual budget of $1 million or less
  4. Can not have an open Vision, Action, or General Operating grant

Questions about your eligibility? View our Frequently Asked Questions or contact us.


Planning plays a critical role in smaller groups’ ability to successfully carry out humanities initiatives. Especially for groups that wish to delve into more interactive public humanities programming or target new audiences, planning grants can help develop a series, explore collaborations, or look into harnessing digital technology or other tools. We believe that better planning leads to stronger programming and that stronger programmatic initiatives can lead to stronger organizational vitality. Vision grants can also be used for succession planning.

Working with consultants to conduct research, provide training, and help develop evaluation tools is entirely acceptable. Projects can include convening scholars, bringing together or surveying audience members, traveling around the state to research an initiative, and other activities to help groups plan.

In addition, Vision grants can be used for groups to go through workshops and trainings meant to help them become more effective as anti-racist organizations and more intentional in holistically addressing gender, class, sexuality, disability/ability, and other issues.

Additional Funding

  1. Optional Accessibility Fund: An additional stipend of up to $150 for services such as American Sign Language interpretation or captioning to help make events more accessible to everyone.
  2. Optional Media Fund: An additional stipend of up to $100 for services such as documentation, photography, videography, etc.
How to Apply

Submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) using our grant application portal, Foundant.


  1. The timeline for activities seeking funding should not begin until 12 weeks after the initial LOI deadline. 
  2. Applicants should submit one grant application per cycle.
  3. Recurring Deadlines*: 5:00 p.m. CST on January 15th and May 15th 

*When the grant deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, the deadline will move to the next business day.

Evaluation and Documentation

Evaluation and documentation are important to us, and we are eager to see how grant applicants define success and plan to measure progress toward it. We ask grant applicants to describe in precise terms the project's desired outcome, and how they will know if it was successful. Within 30 days of the conclusion of a project or grant period, grantees must complete a final grant report.

We ask all Grant recipients to document their initiatives or events by taking photos, recording audio or video, and sharing their experience with us. We want to share with others the great work that grantees are doing and frequently feature stories of grantee partners in our news and on social media @ILHumanities.

Additional Funding

  1. Optional Accessibility Fund: An additional stipend of up to $150 for services such as American Sign Language interpretation or captioning to help make events more accessible to everyone.
  2. Optional Media Fund: An additional stipend of up to $100 for services such as documentation, photography, videography, etc.
Grantee Resources
  1. Complete your final report via our grantee portal.
  2. Official IH Logo (August 2021 version "Illinois Humanities" is bolded)
  3. Grant Acknowledgement Language: This program was made possible in part by a grant from Illinois Humanities.
  4. Resources for grantee partners and grant seekers.

Below are brief descriptions of funded projects.

  1. Chicago Books to Women in Prison is an all-volunteer nonprofit dedicated to offering women behind bars the opportunities for self-empowerment, education, and entertainment that reading provides. Each woman who writes CBWP receives three books, a handwritten note, and an order form for her next request. CBWP wanted to host focus groups in order to better understand the reading interests of incarcerated women as well as to explore better delivery systems. As a result of their 2016 Vision grant, CBWP was able to talk with 80 women to set up a more efficient delivery system and increase its capacity to deliver non-English language books. In the 9 months following their focus groups, it was profiled in pieces in DNAinfo, ABC7, WBEZ, and Booklist, and filled 273 orders, delivering 819 books to women in Cook County Jail. The personal notes mean a lot to the women, CBWP said, “They feel forgotten by the outside world.”
  2. Read/Write Library is a volunteer-based group whose mission is to preserve, provide access to, and make visible the stories of everyone from the Chicago area. It wanted to develop a framework for evaluating its Neighborhood Pop Up Library Program that would not interfere with participants’ experiences of the program and would in fact supplement participants in some way. As a result of their 2016 Vision grant, Read/Write created tools to be potentially used at all Pop-Up Libraries, including an exercise designed to measure mindset around who controls community narratives, an observation rubric that can be used to track conversational indicators during workshops, a survey for educators and facilitators at their workshops, and a logic model to ensure future Pop Up Library partnerships are working with similar variables.
2019 PPC19 EJ whiteboard exc
People Powered Publishing Conference 2019 scaled
Through Vision Grants, we hope to learn more along with our grantees about the following questions:
  • What is the role of planning in delivering high-quality humanities programming?
  • What does this planning actually look like?
  • Does effective planning help smaller humanities groups increase their sustainability?
  • How can humanities, arts, and cultural organizations become more effective as anti-racist and intentionally more equitable actors in their communities?
Contact Us

Mark Hallett
Director of Grants Programs

Joanne Hsu
Grants Programs Manager

Grantee Partner Spotlight

Lucky Jefferson Awake Covers
Covers of Lucky Jefferson's "Awake" digital zine collection

Lucky Jefferson

Grantee Partner Spotlight: Lucky Jefferson

Lucky Jefferson, dedicated to publishing social change, received an Illinois Humanities grant to conduct focus groups to evaluate the needs and interests of Chicago-based Black, African, and African-American writers and artists, ahead of the rebrand of their digital zine for Black authors, “Awake."

Learn More

Frequently Asked Questions

What is your definition of the humanities?

The humanities are the examination of what it means to be human through the interpretation and discussion of all forms of thought, interest, and expression.

We value traditional humanities disciplines, such as art history, literature, history, and philosophy. However, our emphasis on the public humanities means that we look at the humanities as more than an academic discipline. For us, the public humanities are a mode of inquiry and conversation that aims to engage, support, or challenge the ideals, beliefs, tensions, and prejudices of the communities in which we live. We believe that important thought can happen outside of the academy–in neighborhood institutions, schools, churches, and at kitchen tables across the country.

We are especially interested in instances of the public humanities that promote civic engagement–in raising critical issues facing everyday people and conducted with the hope of increasing their thirst for staying engaged. Rather than being defined by rigid disciplinary boundaries, it is the humanistic lens, which emphasizes curiosity, questioning, and dialogue, that matters.

Does your organization have a working definition of the public humanities? Share it with us–we’re eager to explore how others are addressing this complex question.

What activities and expenses does Illinois Humanities not fund?

Illinois Humanities supports public humanities programs, initiatives, and organizations. We do not fund:

  • Activities that promote a specific political position or ideology
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Businesses, for-profits
  • Capital projects (i.e., renovation or purchase of buildings or land)
  • Endowment contributions
  • Foreign travel
  • Lobbying
  • Major equipment purchases (though equipment to assist a specific program is admissible)
  • Out-of-state programs that have no specific relevance or thematic connection people in Illinois (though technically a grant recipient or fiscal agent can be located elsewhere in the U.S.)
  • Programming that falls outside of the humanities
  • Social services (though a social services agency may apply for funding of a humanities project)
Can I have more than one active grant with Illinois Humanities at a time?

In general, grantees may have one open Vision, Action, Multiplier, or General Operating grant at a given time.  Before applying for a new grant, current grantees should be sure to conclude their open grant by submitting a final report.

A grantee may have an open Vision, Action, Multiplier, or General Operating grant and still receive an Activate History microgrant, Envisioning Justice, or Foreground Rural Initiative grant.

Note: If your organization acts as a fiscal agent for another, you may have an open grant and still receive funding for any grant offered by Illinois Humanities.

Who can apply?

Nonprofit organizations can apply for Illinois Humanities grants. This includes 501(c)3 organizations and nonprofits under state law, as well as libraries, schools, faith-based organizations, and universities. We do not accept grant applications from individuals (unless otherwise indicated) or for-profit companies. If you are unsure about whether you can apply, reach out to us.

Why does Illinois Humanities have a grant-making program?

Illinois Humanities has been making grants since its inception in 1973 with over 3,000 awards given, totaling over $22 million. We are proud to have helped support dozens of documentary films, conferences, exhibits, training programs, oral history projects, and scores of other activities. We are firm believers in the many organizations and individuals throughout the state of Illinois that value the humanities, culture, and dialogue as community-building activities, and wish to help them fulfill their missions, carry out high-quality programming, and grow their organizations. We are indebted to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Illinois General Assembly for the support that allows this grantmaking program to exist.